Authored by Liz Mugho
With fall in full swing, college application season is right around the corner. For you students entering your last year of high school, this is a time to plan your future, think about where you would like to go, and the marks you want to make in your life.
If you are a student or a parent of a student who is interested in going to a university, there are a lot of variables to consider when choosing the school where you want to spend the next four years. You are probably looking at their school metrics, such as their academic performance, whether they have the programs you are interested in if they offer financial assistance, and so much more.
However, if you are also an environmental advocate, going to a sustainable college might be something that is extremely valuable. The climate crisis is an issue that will continue to affect everyone on the globe. Ensuring that the institution you decide to commit to understands the importance of practicing sustainability ensures you are picking an institution that aligns with your own goals and values.
How do we measure sustainability on college campuses?
There are numerous ways for college campuses to incorporate green and sustainable practices. Measuring sustainability on campuses requires looking at whether universities have a cohesive sustainability action plan and are incorporating green alternatives on their campuses. Solutions such as investing in clean energy, offering low-emission transportation, sourcing food from local farmers, or having a campus farm, are important ways to reduce the carbon footprint of large college campuses. In a rapidly changing world, universities play an important role by setting examples for the younger generation they are molding.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
The University of Massachusetts is a pioneer in campus sustainability. It is the first public university to completely divest from direct fossil fuel holdings and continues to ensure sustainability efforts are enforced on campus. The university currently has a climate action plan that aims to power the UMass campus with 100% renewable energy and requires that at least 20 percent of the school’s food purchases are from local, community-based vendors that are ecologically sound and humane. UMass has numerous other initiatives that focus on buildings and infrastructure, waste and recycling, as well as campus living.
University of Colorado, Boulder
UC Boulder is not only a great institution for anyone interested in public research, but it is also extremely environmentally conscious. UC Boulder has numerous LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified green buildings across their campus and ensures all new buildings constructed meet or pass the LEED Gold “Plus” rating. They also have the nation’s first student-led environmental center, as well as the nation’s first student-led recycling program. About one-fourth of the courses offered at UC Boulder is related to sustainability, and there are 40 active student groups currently focused on sustainability on campus.
University of Washington, Seattle
If you’re interested in wandering over to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, the University of Washington is a great option for ecologically conscious individuals. UW has a comprehensive climate action plan, with targets such as sourcing 35 percent of its food from the local community by 2025 and reducing 45 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. UW has also recently resolved to completely divest from fossil fuels by 2027. In addition, UW has numerous active on-campus groups fighting against climate change, a student farm, campus recycling, and compost programs, as well as a campus rich with ecological diversity.
University of California, Berkeley
If you’re more interested in sunny California, UC Berkeley might be the place to go. With a mission to become carbon neutral by the year 2025, UC Berkeley has numerous initiatives focused on campus sustainability. They have achieved their 2020 goal of increasing sustainable food purchases by campus food service providers by 20 percent and have numerous buildings on campus that are powered by solar panels.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
UNC-Chapel Hill is another great option for students who might want to migrate down south. UNC-Chapel Hill has a climate action plan that aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 and aims to meet the “Three Zeros Goals:” net-zero water usage, zero waste to landfills, and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. They have a wide variety of energy-efficient buildings, as well. They also instituted green transportation services and a source water management plan, which includes using non-potable water (water that doesn’t meet drinking quality) as a source of activities other than consumption, contact, and research.
There are numerous campuses across the country that are sustainable and continue to help in the effort to reduce the impact we have on our planet. While these are great options for climate activist students, doing your own research and figuring out what works best for you is the best way to find the college of your dreams that cares about the environment as much as you do.